Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8:34b
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection on three separate occasions. Each time the disciples misunderstand entirely. And then Jesus immediately calls His followers to a life shaped by the cross. Read these three sets of passages comparing each of the three aspects: Mark 8:31-38; 9:30-37; 10:32-45.
Now focus on Mark 8:34. The call to take up one’s cross is not a universal call to martyrdom (though it could include that), or to suffer (though it will consist of that); Jesus’ call here is broader than both of these things. Ask yourself, what is conveyed in particular by the imagery of taking up one’s cross?
Luke’s account adds that we are to take up our crosses “daily” (Luke 9:23). According to Hans Bayer, the death to which Jesus invites us “stands for a radical surrender, a giving over of self-centered perspectives and control to God” (A Theology of Mark). Ask yourself, what could be an appropriate next step for you in living a life shaped by the cross that requires ongoing “radical surrender”?
Take some time now to surrender those things which are most challenging to give up, knowing that you are entrusting yourself to the one who cares more about you than anyone else.
“The goal of discipleship is to be fully redeemed, transformed, and living as radiant letters to others of God’s unmerited mercy and healing. We have to see the tough challenges of ‘self-denial’ and ‘carrying one’s cross’ not as goals in themselves but as means to our desired purpose of following Christ. The glorious goal is to be free for Christ’s will, adventure, and ways. It is to be entirely at his disposal to reflect the glory of God in our purified lives.” – Hans Bayer, A Theology of Mark